The person who initiated a high-profile pepper-spray takedown of an inmate following a vicious attack on a correctional officer in May 2019 says the incident reflects a work environment that neglects the safety of staff, especially women, and it has led to her life being destroyed. 

Lisa Hann, the corrections officer responsible for pepper-spraying inmate Jordan Charlie on May 28, 2019, says her safety was breached and her life was destroyed following the incident.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Lisa Hann worked as a corrections officer with the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC) between 2011-2019.  On May 28, 2019, inmate Jordan Charlie repeatedly punched and kicked a sole correctional officer who was escorting him to his cell following a video court appearance. The attack left the officer badly injured and hospitalized with minor injuries.

Hann said on the day of the attack, she was acting deputy warden of operations in charge of the high-security area of the jail and that she was the first to respond with pepper spray. 

“I heard yelling from behind a door and when I opened the door the inmate was kicking and punching an officer that was on the floor,” Hann recalled. “I immediately responded and sprayed the inmate with pepper spray and stopped the attack.”

Because of her duties on that day and based on standard operating protocol at the jail, Hann said she should never have been the one to physically handle the inmate.

She maintains that the jail’s standing operating protocol should have resulted in immediate backup from the several officers who can be seen in a nearby doorway in a video recording of the incident. Hann alleges that the other acting deputy warden on duty stood in the way in the nearby doorway and prevented the support of additional officers required to immediately assist her with the violent inmate. 

“So I sprayed him (Charlie) and absolutely nobody is coming to my defence,” she said, noting she briefly stood by after spraying, waiting for backup that didn’t arrive. “I’m the one that sprayed him. I am the one who is cuffing him and nobody but nobody is coming to help me because the guy at the door is telling them not to help me.”

Some officers were allowed to assist the injured officer in the hallway as Hann proceeded to cuff Charlie with a case manager by her side calling for Charlie to get on the floor.  

Soon thereafter an intake officer, as can be seen in the video, pushed past the acting deputy warden in the doorway to offer Hann assistance in taking Charlie to a secure cell. Hann said this was absolutely necessary because Charlie was physically bigger than her and not someone she could handle on her own. 

“When I sprayed him, there should have been an officer at his feet shackling him, an officer at his shoulders and another one cuffing him,” Hann said. “I should have been the fourth officer giving direction because I’m the one who sprayed him. I should not have had to touch him. Then he should have been brought to the cell and any excess officers should have been behind in case he decided to act up again.”

After arriving with Charlie at his cell, however, two officers eventually showed up but surprisingly did not remain there, Hann said. 

“As per protocol, once we arrived at the inmate’s cell I removed the cuffs so he could decontaminate himself from the pepper spray,” she said. “When I looked up after the cuffs were removed, I discovered the only one on the door was….  the case manager and the officers had left. I was shocked.” 

Had another incident occurred with Charlie, the two women and the intake officer were separated from additional officer help by a security door, a long hallway, and a second security door. She estimates there would be about a 30-second response time due to the distance. 

Final day at NSCC 

Hann said the incident occurred during the late afternoon of the first day of a scheduled seven-day shift. She worked the following five days. However, when she was scheduled to work on June 2, 2019 with the acting deputy warden who she said prevented the officers from helping her, she refused out of safety concerns. The violent takedown of Charlie had left her feeling there was a “a major safety issue” with a lack of support due to being a female officer.

“When male officers take control of a situation, officers rally around to provide backup but when I took charge I noticed that officers make themselves scarce,” she said.

“The following day I filled out Workers’ Safety (and) Compensation Commission (WSCC) papers and went off of work,” Hann said. “The incident itself with the inmate was not upsetting for me; it was the fact that I felt my safety was jeopardized as a result of (the other acting deputy warden) blocking my backup. I did not feel safe reporting to work. I had no trust in my fellow officers or supervisors to assist me and I was being actively targeted by my fellow officers.”

Duty to accommodate and mental health questions

Hann remains off work, but has collected pay while on WSCC. 

She communicated her safety concerns and her alarm over the other acting deputy warden’s actions during a July 18, 2019 meeting with department officials, union representatives and the warden. She demanded the acting deputy warden’s in-charge status be revoked in exchange for her returning to work. 

At that meeting, according to Hann, NSCC warden John Nahanni disputed her version of events. Rather than using the video, she said Nahanni provided still photos of officers cuffing the inmate after the incident. 

“Now the warden pulls out a time-stamped series of photos that shows uniformed officers inside and outside the cell while I was taking the cuffs off of (Charlie) in his cell,” Hann said. 

“I felt that presenting the still photos at this meeting was completely illustrating the incident in a way so as not to show the entirety of the situation. Those stills were from a different part of the incident, after the inmate was back in his cell, and they were time stamped to make it look like they occurred during the pinnacle of the incident. I felt that it was put together to get the panel to see me as being unstable and sick.”

Grievance filed  

The Union of Northern Workers filed a grievance on Dec. 21, 2020 on Hann’s behalf stating they agreed that the employer “failed to provide Ms. Hann with a work environment free from harassment, discrimination, and abuse of authority as required by GNWT Harassment Free and Respectful Workplace Policy.”

“The union alleges that this harassment, discrimination and abuse of authority have been the result of discrimination based on prohibited grounds,” states the letter. “Ms. Hann has been discriminated against based on her sex by a sexist work culture promoted and tolerated by management and staff at the NSCC and the Department of Justice.”

Nineteen-year-old Jordan Charlie, pictured here in a Facebook photo, received a federal sentence of four-and-a-half-years for assaulting a peace officer, aggravated assault and robbery.
Facebook photo

Hann contends the incident and the way it was handled by NSCC management both during and afterwards is reflective of a workplace culture of lax safety protocols and overall discriminatory treatment of women. 

Had she not intervened in the way she did, Hann believes much more harm would have been inflicted on the officer who was assaulted. 

“He was off for a short while as his face recovered,” Hann said. “He was pretty beat up. As you can see from the video, he had the (expletive) kicked out of him. Another couple of kicks and (Charlie) might have done some serious damage.”

Charlie was later sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison on convictions of aggravated assault, robbery and assaulting a peace officer.

NNSL Media provided the Department of Justice questions on Jan. 4 to seek comment on Hann’s allegations. Sue Glowach, senior communications advisor stated on Wednesday that the department was “unable to respond due to the legal processes that are underway in regard to the allegations.”

NNSL Media also sought comment from the Union of Northern Workers on Jan. 5. In an email statement, President Todd Parsons declined comment.

“The UNW does not have any comments at this time,” stated Parsons.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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